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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
In the non-fiction work Raven and the Hummingbird, Renate Caldwell chronicles the therapeutic process undertaken with a patient named Joan who suffered from Multiple Personality Disorder consequent to severe childhood abuse. To mitigate the effects of her trauma, Joan resorted to various identities, allowing her to dissociate from the distressing memories. In the course of the years of lengthy therapy, Caldwell acquaints herself with the different personas Joan embodies, each signifying a remnant of a past experience. Through these exchanges, Caldwell endeavors to piece together the gruesome events that Joan endured and the alternate realities she constructed to shield herself from harm, and how to consolidate the personalities back to the one person who needed them: Joan.
Raven and the Hummingbird is a compelling work that provides a poignant account of one individual's journey to recovery from the ramifications of severe childhood abuse, alongside exploring the therapeutic techniques that aid in the process of overcoming trauma. Although the book is beautifully and compassionately written, I had to take breaks while reading it because of the emotional toll Joan's life was having on my own. I am not an empath but reading the work by Renate Caldwell was as close as I think I have ever been to feeling like one, which means the book is doing what it is meant to do. By this, I mean educating on a level that a reader will never forget and not sugar-coating a patient's experience for the sake of softening the unsoftenable. From an academic perspective, Caldwell has written a marvel of a psychology text that should be required reading for those in the field. I've never come across anything like it, for better or for worse. Exceptional.